Album Reviews

Angels & Airwaves – I-Empire

(Geffen) UK release date: 5 November 2007


There are times when you think that maybe ex-Blink 182 man Tom DeLonge is trying a bit too hard to distance himself from his past. A quick read of the press release for Angels & Airwaves’ second album confirms that: “while the band’s debut addressed infinite possibility in the human experience, I-Empire furthers the topic, referencing the idea that the empire that one builds exists within oneself”.

This is Tom DeLongue, if you remember, whose former band recorded an album called Enema Of The State, the cover of which featured a saucy nurse lasciviously pulling on a rubber glove.

It’s that sense of self-importance around Angels & Airwaves that rubs some people up the wrong way – the idea that DeLonge’s new band are doing something revolutionary, something maverick – something that’s never been tackled before by any other band. DeLonge’s been talking up this new album again in the press, exclaiming in one interview that “this is as exciting as rock’n’roll gets!”.

And so it is that while Angels & Airwaves’ first album was nothing more than a half-decent rock album, I-Empire is the same old stuff, only with a few less memorable tunes than its predecessor. Apparently conceived as a companion piece to We Don’t Need To Whisper, it contains the same epic production, the same U2-apeing guitar riffs and the same nasally DeLonge whine delivering some truly atrocious lyrics.

To give Angels & Airwaves credit though, they do have a fantastically tight sound. New bassist Matt Wachter (formerly of 30 Seconds To Mars) slots in effortlessly, and really makes the difference on tracks such as Everything’s Magic, the highlight of the album. It’s light, catchy and completely lacking in the rather pretentious air that coats some of the other tracks here.

Opener Call To Arms is also a decent starting point, featuring an epic, expansive introduction before the song kicks into gear with a memorable, yearning chorus. Yet as the album progresses, a seemingly endless parade of dull anonymous rock that all sounds rather similar begins to grate on the nerves.

Like the band’s debut, far too many songs feature a slow build up before David Kennedy’s guitar does its best impression of The Edge – True Love for example follows this template to perfection, even featuring some platitudes as “the light is the sign that love will guide you home”. Love Like Rockets and Lifeline tread a similar path, and leave very little lasting impression.

Breathe does at least attempt to do something a bit different, sounding a bit like Streets Of Philadelphia-era Springsteen, although lyrics such as “I love you, you make me feel alive, and I’ll love you till the end of time” will try the patience of even the most romantic of souls.

Perhaps the nadir comes in Rite Of Spring. Considering that the rather risible lyrics are presumably auto-biographical (“it took an hour to start a punk rock band to offset my fucked up family”), you’d think DeLonge would sing them with a bit of passion and excitement, rather than the dull, flat whine he sings in here.

There’s just not enough memorable songs on I-Empire to consider it a success. Credit to DeLonge for eschewing the path that his former bandmates have taken in +44 and just retrode the old pop/punk path, but widescreen production and U2-style riffs will only get you so far before it starts to sound tired and dull.

Even though it was apparently always meant to come out so quickly, I-Empire feels like a rush job. Tom DeLonge does have talent, and maybe one day he’ll make an album that deserves all his self-proclaimed hype. This, however, isn’t it.


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More on Angels & Airwaves
Angels & Airwaves – I-Empire
Interview: Angels & Airwaves
Angels & Airwaves – We Don’t Need To Whisper